Page 127 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 15 February 2006

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councillors; I would like to increase my ministry. Would you agree to me increasing my ministry? Prime Minister, please, please, please, can I appoint another minister?” Mr Smyth and the Liberal Party in the ACT think that is quite a reasonable request.

I have no doubt that when I approached Mr Smyth and presented him with the letter he had every intention of signing this letter. Then he asked his colleagues in the party room. Because of the dynamic in the party room, this, of course, was another opportunity for the takeover faction, the coat tuggers. Richard Mulcahy, the putative leader, the puppet, loaded the gun, as he always does, ducked behind Mrs Dunne’s skirt, as he always does, and asked Mrs Dunne to flash off a few shots around the room, around the territory, as she is wont to do, shooting herself in the foot on those occasions when her foot is not in her mouth.

We have this dreadful picture of Mr Mulcahy tugging away, if not at Peter Costello’s coat, behind Mrs Dunne as he ducks backwards and forwards, trying to keep out of range so that nobody will see him and nobody will know that it was this great hero, the green team, Richard Mulcahy and Mrs Dunne, the next leader and deputy leader of the opposition. That is what it is all about. We are to be denied the opportunity or the capacity to determine the size of our own Assembly and the size of our own ministry because Richard Mulcahy wants to be leader of the Liberal Party.

MR SPEAKER: The minister’s time has expired.

MS PORTER: Chief Minister, did the opposition leader offer any support for the notion that, if self-government is to be genuine, the Assembly should be able to determine its own affairs?

MR STANHOPE: No. In my letter to Mr Smyth I went to great pains to ensure that he understood—and one needs to go to great pains to ensure Mr Smyth understands—that this was an issue about the principle of whether or not we are, indeed, a self-governing territory, whether we are, indeed, an Assembly which has some sovereignty and some control over our own affairs or whether or not we are an Assembly that is content, on behalf of the people of the ACT, to sit back and accept our second-class status. It is as simple as that.

On what basis can one justify the fact that I cannot increase the size of my ministry from five to six without the Prime Minister’s approval? How patronising is that? How derisory is it that I cannot increase the size of my ministry from five to six? I cannot appoint a parliamentary secretary; I cannot fill a vacancy unless the Prime Minister personally approves. How derisory is that? The Liberal Party in this place is comfortable with that.

One of the explanations provided to me by the Leader of the Opposition was that the Liberal Party is happy for the size of the Assembly to remain at 17 members. This is a new position. A year or so ago, it was not happy for the Assembly to remain at 17. In fact, we had a negotiated position with the previous Leader of the Opposition in this place, the leader of the Liberal Party, in which we were negotiating with the Liberal Party on the basis of an increase to either 21 or 23 members. This is a new position.

That highlights the point that this is not and was not about how many members we should have; this was always about how do we gain control over own destiny, our own

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